Riederalp 2018 Workshop on Disasters and Societies

Exposure, vulnerability and resilience of human societies to climate- and weather-related disasters from the Holocene to the Anthropocene


Please scroll down or choose one of the following options to view the following important information related to this meeting


Context of the Workshop

Workshop structure

Workshop fees

Workshop registration and abstract submission form

Contact the meeting organisers


A view of Riederalp, Switzerland, taken in March 2016 during the 2016 edition of the "Riederalp Workshops"

(Photo: © 2016 Martin Beniston).



Context of the Workshop


The Riederalp meetings are annual events that focus on topics dealing with Climate Change Impacts and Risks in the Anthropocene, and are organized by the C-CIA research team at the Institute for Environmental Sciences of the University of Geneva, Switzerland. The 2018 workshop will be dedicated to

Exposure, vulnerability and resilience of human societies to climate- and weather-related disasters from the Holocene to the Anthropocene

Studies of exposure, vulnerability and resilience of past and current societies to natural disasters have multiplied in recent decades with the growing realization that anthropogenic climate change may affect the frequency, intensity, and spatial extent of climate extremes.

We here define exposure as the presence of people, livelihoods, environmental services and resources, infrastructure; or economic, social, or cultural assets that can be adversely affected by weather-related disasters. Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. The concept of resilience refers to the ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organization, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change (IPCC WG2 2007: 880)

Although research on weather extremes and related natural hazards is rich and thriving, more inter-disciplinary collaboration is needed to manage and reduce the risks of extreme climatic events, build more resilient communities, and prevent natural hazards from escalating into disasters. The 2018 Riederalp workshop thus calls for contributions from a wide range of scholars and practitioners representing various disciplines that may include archeology, climatology, economy, history, hydrology, geography, geology paleoclimatology and political science. The key questions and topics that will be covered, and for which contributions are welcome, include:

  • How did past societies cope with extreme weather events? What were the limits to coping or adaptation, and how did these limits evolve through time and space? What lessons can be learnt from archeology, history and paleoclimatology in seeking to address these questions?
  • How can improved data on past climatic extremes inform current risk assessments and thus possibly have an impact on resilience of modern societies?
  • Connections (or “pathways”) between climatic extremes, subsistence crises, famines, popular unrest and state-sponsored or interstate violence and conflict.
  • Exposure and vulnerability of societies under current and projected climate change.
  • Methods and strategies for managing the risks from climate extremes at national and international levels.

The concept of resilience is being utilized widely in research, but often – and interchangeably – defined as a scientific concept, a guiding principle, a means to become more sustainable or even simply as an inspirational ‘buzzword’ (de Brujin et al., 2017). Related to resilience is the ability of individuals, communities, organizations and states to adapt to and recover from hazards, whether they arise from extreme weather, climate change or any type of natural disaster, shock or stress without compromising their long-term prospects for development (UNISDR, 2005). Resilience is thus determined by the degree to which individuals, communities and public and private organizations are capable of organizing themselves to learn from past disasters and reduce their risks to future ones, at international, regional, national and local levels (GSDRC, 2017). The UN Sendai Framework advocates for a culturally-sensitive approach when it comes to resilience in particular or disaster risk reduction (DRR) in more general terms, in which the behavior and attitudes related to culture affect exposure and sensitivity of populations to hazards.

The focus of this workshop will therefore be to put the concept of resilience into perspective, both from a historic and a climate change perspective. The proposed Riederalp 2018 Workshop will bring together specialists from the natural, social and economic sciences to discuss the implications of resilience of societies to natural disasters and climate change, in terms of enhanced scientific knowledge, adaptation strategies, and policy guidance.



The venue: Riederalp, Canton of Valais, Switzerland

Riederalp is a car-free resort in the UNESCO World Heritage "Aletsch Glacier" Region. The resort is at equal distance (roughly three hours by train) from Geneva-Cointrin, Zurich-Kloten and Milano-Malpensa airports. Please note that you will need to change trains in Brig and take the small mountain railway as far as Mörel, and then the cable-car to Riederalp. Information on times and connections is available on the Swiss Federal Railroads website. Simply type in your station of origin and “Riederalp” as your destination.

Riederalp is a small summer and winter village in the region of the largest glacier of the European Alps, the Aletsch Glacier. It lies on a south-facing slope with spectacular views to the high summits of the Valais Alps on the other side of the Rhone Valley. It is one of about 14 Swiss resorts that are free of all road traffic. The village is located at close to 2,000 m altitude above sea-level, and end March should still be a good time of the year for skiing (despite global warming!), with ski runs reaching above 2,500 m.

Conference Hotel and Booking Instructions

The meeting will take place at the Art Furrer Resort Hotel, where a block of rooms has been set aside for the meeting. All meals, coffee breaks, plenary sessions and possible breakout meetings will take place in the hotel. Based on the 4 nights/4 days of the meeting, prices at the hotel range from CHF 850.- (shared double room) to CHF 990.-(single rooms), which include the room, half-board (breakfast and evening meal), taxes, and all coffee breaks.

Because this will be a full 3-day meeting, with an important final wrap-up session on the morning of Saturday, March 24, participants are expected to arrive in the afternoon or evening of Tuesday, March 20, 2018 and depart after noon on Saturday, March 24, 2018. While you are expected to confirm your participation by filling in the form below, hotel rooms need to be booked individually at the dedicated workshop web page. Should you have any questions regarding the hotel or a schedule different from that of the workshop, please contact: reservation(at) Please make sure you mention the “2018 Resilience Workshop” in the subject line to benefit from the special workshop conditions.


Workshop structure

As in past Riederalp events, the meeting format will consist of a set of presentations in the morning, followed by free afternoons for skiing or other outdoor activities, and breakout discussions (or further presentations) prior to drinks and dinner. The number of participants in previous meetings has ranged from 25 to 40 (the latter being a maximum number, because of the facilities available but especially in terms of ensuring interactivity between participants). An important final wrap-up session will take place on the final morning of the meeting (Saturday, March 24), thereafter enabling participants to leave in time to catch afternoon or evening flights in Geneva, Zurich, or Milan – or stay on for the rest of the weekend.



Workshop fees

A registration fee of CHF 100.— or € 100.— will be charged for the full event, that will help cover the administrative costs related to the event. Cash-only will be accepted upon registration during the meeting, as we do not have the facilities to charge credit cards.


Workshop registration and abstract submission form

Please click on this link to download the Abstract submission form, where you are also requested to fill out your contact details. The form should be sent back via email to markus.stoffel(at) before January 27, 2018. The number of rooms is limited – participants will be accepted one a first come, first serve basis.



Summer and Winter views of the Aletsch Glacier, the biggest Alpine glacier near Riederalp.

It is 23 km long, with a surface area of roughly 120 square km.

(Photo: © 2016 Martin Beniston).


Contact details of the organisers

Markus Stoffel, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Francis Micheal Ludlow, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Joe Manning, Yale University, U.S